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Bustamante: The Racist in the Race? By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 11, 2003


HIS FAMILY NAME CAN MEAN “GRAVE DIGGER” IN THE SPAIN his ancestors left to become colonizers and exploiters of Mexico. 

Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, having broken his promise not to put his name on the October 7th recall ballot as a candidate to replace fellow Democrat Gray Davis, has emerged as his party’s last best hope to retain control of California’s governorship.

This race’s first Time/CNN poll shows Bustamante besting all Republicans on the ballot except Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Black Plowman” in Austrian German), to whom he would lose today by 10 points. 

With what he calls “two bruising months” to smear the Hollywood star before the election, Bustamante could win. Or this mistake-prone, erratic politician could lose badly and in the process dig a hole so deep that he could bury California’s Democratic Party for decades to come.

Who is this round-faced, balding 50-year-old pol from the farmlands of California’s Central Valley, where a large share of America’s nuts and fruits are grown?

The oldest of six children, Cruz Bustamante grew up south of Fresno, California, with his siblings, mother Dominga and father Cruz, a barber and, briefly, local City Councilman. They shared the home with his grandparents on both sides of the family from Chihuahua and Zacatecas in north-central Mexico. (One of Mexico’s notorious presidents, 1837-1839 & 1839-1841, had been Anastasio Bustamante.)

In this agricultural region that some call the once-and-future Mexifornia, little Cruz prior to kindergarten spoke nothing but Spanish.  As a politician he reportedly has voiced regrets about losing perfect fluency in it and said he wants to make frequent trips to Mexico to regain it.

When he attended local Tranquillity High School, as Bustamante told LatinoLink reporter Fernando Quintero in 1999, “You noticed the differences between everyone there, and you had to take sides. You were either a good Mexican kid or a coconut [‘brown on the outside, white on the inside’].”

This was the era when, amid cries of La Raza, “the race,” United Farm Workers fought growers and then the Teamsters Union for control of farm fields in California’s heartland. Those pickers who dared to question UFW caudillo Cesar Chavez risked a visit by thugs at midnight who would leave them with smashed faces and broken arms as the leftist union tried to force racial polarization and political radicalization down Latino throats.

After high school, Bustamante began studies at Fresno City College to become a butcher. He dropped out before earning his degree.

His father persuaded local Congressman B.F. Sisk to make Cruz an intern in Washington, D.C.  The experience ignited in Bustamante a passion for politics and power.

“I was like a kid in a candy store…” he told Quintero. “I found that I could call an agency and make things happen. That was very exciting for me.” 

To another reporter he said of his internship:  “I discovered that I was much better at cutting red tape than at cutting meat.”

Returning home, Bustamante began attending Fresno State University, where he also failed to graduate but immersed himself in local and student politics, including the racial activism of MEChA, a group whose name is an acronym for “Moviemiento Estudiantil Chicano de AZTLAN,” the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan.

“I wasn’t the most radical Mechista,” says Bustamante nowadays. Perhaps not, but he was a member of MEChA and has refused all requests that he dissociate himself from its values and ideas.

As its critics might argue, to say you were not “the most radical Mechista” is a bit like saying you were not “the most radical Nazi.” Just to have been a Nazi, however “moderate,” is radical, socialist and evil enough to warrant condemnation.

Like Nazism, MEChA has acquired more than a tinge of racism. In their tactics to advance Latinos and “La Raza,” many of its activists have directed racist attacks against not only white-skinned Anglos but also against blacks, Asian-Americans and Jews – in fact, against every non-Latino group.

The “A” in MEChA stands for “Aztlan,” their word for the entire southwestern United States from Texas to California and from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, lost in war or sold by Mexico to the U.S.  Mechistas aim to reclaim all this land for Mexico in a new reconquista, a “reconquest” like the re-taking of Spain from Moorish Muslims by Roman Catholics that was completed in 1492.

In 1996 and 2000, then Vice President Al Gore worked closely with the Southwest Voter Registration Project to register Hispanic voters as Democrats.  Gore appeared with project leaders who as they shook his hand were wearing the brown berets of Aztlan symbolic of the Mechista crusade to restore Mexican control to all once-Mexican land.

Again, Bustamante has refused to distance himself in any way from MEChA and its desire to return Aztlan to Mexico. Does he see himself running to become governor of one of the United States – or of the regained Mexican state of Alta California, as the Spanish called the upper counterpart to Baja California in Mexico?  This is something he should be asked about by voters and the press at every public appearance.

After telling reporters at a press conference, “We could not conduct business without the immigrant,” the then-Assemblyman was asked if he supported illegal immigration, Bustamante replied: “My district requires it.”  Thereafter for a time he restricted his press conferences to Spanish language media.

Bustamante’s political success is one symptom of America’s largest, fastest-growing Hispanic minority.  In California Hispanic-Americans today make up about one-third of the population, and Anglo whites are now less than 50 percent of this state’s residents.

(Blacks comprise only eight percent of California’s population but hold 11 percent of all government jobs, nearly 50 percent more than what advocates of racial apportionment would call their “fair share.”  Blacks, even more than whites, are immediately threatened in their neighborhoods, jobs and future by the growing rival Hispanic minority manifest in Bustamante.)

The first Hispanic elected statewide in 120 years, Bustamante throughout his political career has urged Latinos to vote for him in ethnic solidarity. Last year he was the “poster child” running mate Governor Gray Davis embraced in campaign ads aimed at this community. How ironic it is that Bustamante has now dug Davis’ grave by giving Democrats an alternative on the October 7th ballot.

Bustamante built his early career not only on brown skin, however, but also on green cash. A skilled fundraiser for Democrat politicians, he in 1993 was rewarded with a safe Democratic seat in the Assembly from Fresno.  In 1996 he was elevated to Speaker of this lower house of the California legislature when veteran Speaker Willy Brown, now San Francisco Mayor, was pushed out by a new term limits law.

This law turned California politics into a game of musical chairs, forcing career politicians to jump from one job to another.  When he was term-limited out of the Assembly, Bustamante won election in 1998 to the lucrative but usually unimportant job of Lieutenant Governor.

In a “Freudian slip” during a 2001 speech, Cruz Bustamante may have revealed just how much MEChA-like racism continues to infect his own mind.

On February 9, 2001, during a Black History Month speech before 400 members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Bustamante casually referred to an African-American labor organization as the “Nigger” labor organization, using the evil “N” word and continuing obliviously with his speech for another 10 minutes while up to 100 outraged listeners rose and left the room.

Bustamante then stopped and apologized for what he called his “slip.”  Black activists like the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who would have demanded the head of any Republican politician who used the “N” word, uttered no criticism of Bustamante. The nation’s leftist press largely ignored the issue, as it had when former Ku Klux Klan leader Robert Byrd, D-WV, used the same vile epithet on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

“You don’t make a slip like that,” said audience member Gwendalyn Bello, “unless it is something you say normally.”

“What was troublesome to a lot of people,” said San Francisco labor organizer and state president of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute James Bryant, “was that the word came out very naturally.” 

Perhaps Mr. Bryant did not know that Bustamante had formed his ideas about race as a Mechista.

Bustamante’s first name Cruz is the Spanish word for “Cross.”  This embustero’s true name should be Doblecruz, “doublecross,” to remind people of his tendency to betray and backstab onetime allies.

With the recall movement against his ally Governor Gray Davis on the verge of success, Bustamante shocked fellow Democrats by proposing that he would allow a statewide vote to recall the Governor – but, by ignoring what the state constitution clearly requires, would forbid any vote to replace Davis.

By this de facto coup d’etat, boasted Bustamante, the Governor’s office would become vacant and he as Lt. Governor then would automatically become the new Governor.  All that would be needed to guarantee continued Democratic control of this office, said Bustamante, was approval by an obscure, Democrat-dominated panel called the Commission on the Governorship.

Fellow Democrats apparently sat Bustamante down and explained that California was not yet Mexico, that the voters would not accept such an obvious banana republic coup d’etat or his shredding and burning of the constitution in front of their eyes. What he advocated was blatantly illegal, much like Gray Davis’ demand that his name be allowed on the ballot of candidates who could succeed him.

For days Bustamante sulked, “holding out the possibility,” wrote veteran Sacramento Bee political columnist Daniel Weintraub, “that this panel could weigh in and rule that only he could succeed Davis.”

Then Bustamante relented, magnanimously declaring that he would allow the people to vote on replacements for Davis.

“There is no circumstance in which I would be a candidate,” said the humiliated Bustamante in one interview. 

“I will not participate in any way other than to urge voters to reject this expensive perversion of the recall process,” he said earlier elsewhere. “I will not attempt to advance my career at the expense of the people I was elected to serve. I do not intend to put my name on that ballot.”

In saying this, he was maintaining the united front demanded by Davis and organized labor that no prominent Democrat go on this ballot, thereby sealing Davis’ fate by giving Democratic voters an alternative to voting against the recall.

But last week Bustamante broke his vow, double-crossed his party, and became the first major Democrat to leave a sinking ship by putting his name on the ballot to replace Gray Davis.  His official posture is nearly paradoxical, telling Californians to vote against the recall of Davis but also to vote for him.

In a state with a million more registered Democrats than Republicans, and with Republicans likely to scatter their votes among several contenders, a sizeable turnout could mean victory for Bustamante.  That Davis will be recalled seems likely, with a third of Democrats and more than half of Hispanics against him, so the only question to be decided is who will replace him.

But who is Cruz Bustamante?  Is he the man who said he would not run under any circumstances, or the man who lied about this and days later was running?

Is he the politician who claims vast experience but now says he has only spoken via telephone with Governor Gray Davis “a few times” in recent years?  Or is this former Assembly Speaker and current Lt. Governor a key part of the ruling Democratic elite that created the economic and social mess that prompted the Davis recall? 

In other words, is Bustamante a knave or a naif?  Was he part of this ruling leftist elite that ran up government spending by 41 percent while population grew by only 20 percent during the Davis years, thereby causing the current budget disaster in California as well as 40 percent of economic problems nationwide?  Or was Bustamante only pretending to be an important player in the government? Either way, he is unfit to become Governor. 

Why replace Davis with Davis II?

(It is true that he and Davis have disagreed on some issues, and in every case – e.g., whether to expand lawsuits to overturn Proposition 187 and its limits on government benefits to illegal aliens – Bustamante has advocated policies even farther to the Left than has Davis.)

Is Bustamante the politician who now says he wants to give Californians a choice? Or is he the coup plotter who tried illegally to seize the governorship for himself by denying the people any vote at all? 

(This is close to what he and the Democratic Party are still doing, having used threats and intimidation to keep all other Democrats – except pornographer and Clinton operative Larry Flynt – off the ballot so that Democrats have no choice but him.  Is this “pro-choice” liberalism?)

Is Bustamante the witty “moderate” and smiling grandfather that the leftist media will portray? Or is he still the ideologue who refuses to renounce his youthful embrace of the pan-Hispanic racism of MEChA and who in a Freudian slip called blacks “Niggers” in front of an African-American organization?  What did this reveal, and can Californians risk electing a governor with this kind of mind and values?

Is he the “good Mexican kid” or the “coconut” he was prodded to choose between back in high school?  Does he ultimately see himself as an American or a citizen of Aztlan?

Two things are indisputable about Cruz Bustamante: the man is an opportunist and a liar.  He has lied so often and betrayed so many that nothing he claims to be now can be trusted or believed. 

For the sake of California and the nation, we can only hope that the political grave DobleCruz Bustamante has dug is his own.


Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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